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Home NEWS Events Filipinas Heritage Library Remembers Battle for Manila at the Ayala Museum

Filipinas Heritage Library Remembers Battle for Manila at the Ayala Museum

Hundreds of participants including survivors, veterans, former internees, teachers, and students joined the Filipinas Heritage Library (FHL) in commemorating the 70th year of the Battle for Manila from February 3 to March 3 at the Ayala Museum through a series of lectures and an exhibit.

Manila, My City at War! opened on February 3 with talks by Roderick Hall, whose collection of 2,000+ books on World War II - Philippine Theater, is now housed at FHL; Robin Pettyfer, nephew of former University of Santo Tomas internee Rupert Wilkinson; writer and filmmaker Uro de la Cruz, who has brought the works of Filipino pre- and postwar photographer Teodulo Protomartir to public consciousness; and Col. Emmanuel V. de Ocampo, President of the Veterans’ Federation of the Philippines.

The conference sessions, held on the Saturdays of February, discussed various aspects of World War II in Manila, focusing on the month-long battle in the city between the Japanese Imperial Army and the joint American and Filipino forces in 1945. Members of the Manila Memorare 1945 Foundation shared their memories of the battle, with Amb. Juan Jose Rocha remarking, “I hope [the present generation] never experiences the kind of thirst we did” when, as young boys in the war, they had to drink water from a well with a dead body in it, which they had pooled in a small palanggana and disinfected with iodine.

Many of those who lived through the war, such as Carmen Guerrero Nakpil and Marcial P. Lichauco, wrote about it in memoirs and diaries, and these recollections were shared in the conference by their daughters, Gemma Cruz Araneta and Cornelia Lichauco Fung. Descendants also shared the story of the Wha Chi Guerrillas, young men who were sent from China to the Philippines to help the Filipinos fight the Japanese in World War II.

Academics from the University of the Philippines, Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, and University of Asia and the Pacific discussed their research on everyday life and culture during the Japanese occupation of the country. These short lectures revealed that the Japanese considered their cultural impositions on the Filipinos as a military strategy: the Japanese Propaganda Corps, made up of writers and intellectuals, was regarded as a unit of the Japanese Imperial Army.

Meanwhile, thousands of spectators viewed the exhibit on the second floor of books, photos, maps, documents, videos, plastic scale models, and military gear and equipment sourced from FHL’s Retrato and Roderick Hall collections and other private collectors. Supplementing the exhibit were photos and texts from the Philippine Veterans Bank’s War of Our Fathers, a decade-old travelling exhibit narrating the entirety of World War II in the Philippines.

The conference ended on February 28 with the screening of two documentaries: one on the Wha Chi Guerrillas and another, on the 1,300+ Jewish refugees welcomed by President Manuel L. Quezon to the Philippines when the rest of the world seemed to close its doors on them. According to the Prof. Sharon Delmendo, whose lecture followed the film screening, the Philippines could have accommodated up to one million Jews had the United States not opposed Quezon’s rescue plans.

For information on upcoming lectures and exhibits by the Filipinas Heritage Library, and to donate any materials on World War II in the Philippines, please visit www.filipinaslibrary.org.ph or email asklibrarian@filipinaslibrary.org.ph.